REVIEW – Music for the Book of Deer

*****

By Jen Bolsover

Inspired by the Book of Deer, Scottish ensemble Strangeness & Charm perform a newly written suite of music on trumpet, saxophone, keyboard and bass guitar, amongst other instruments.

It’s an odd choice of instruments for music inspired by a 10th century gospel book, the oldest surviving example of written Gaelic. From time to time there are flashes of a timeless, epic soundscape – Bend in the River uses bass and percussion imaginatively to flood the mind with images of the landscape surrounding the monastery where the book might have been written. The working life of the place is evoked at the beginning and end by a single tubular bell, and it is sometimes possible to discern the influence of plainsong on Richard Ingham’s score.

However, in between these moments there are long stretches of synth-heavy keys with more than a hint of the New Age about them, of electronic reels and jazz-funk. It’s well played (though massively over-amplified), but the connections to the source material are somewhat tenuous. The extremely brief introductions to each section do not offer much information about The Book of Deer itself or about Ingham’s connection to it. Perhaps a little more time spent on the introductions would have clarified the relationships between the pieces and the Book.

For fans of modern jazz this is an enjoyable hour, but anyone looking for music more intuitively related to The Book of Deer, or for more of an introduction to the Book itself, this might not prove such a satisfying experience.

Rating: 3 stars

Music for the Book of Deer runs at the Scottish Storytelling Centre until the 19th of August at 21:00. Running time is 1 hour.

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